Yes, the 2014 summer movie season is upon us, even weeks away from what the calendar might say. There are a ridiculous amount of releases coming out between the first weekend of May and the last one in August, and along the way we’ll see monsters, children become men, Godzilla and talking apes.
To bring in the season, I asked a number of local critics to add their thoughts on what they expect for 2014’s blockbuster season, what they feel about summer’s past and whatever else springs to mind. The fellow film writers include Michael Ward of Should I See It, Sara Michelle Fetters of MovieFreak and “Seattle Gay News,” Erik Samdahl from FilmJabber and Brian “The Movie Guy” Taibl from radio stations across the northwest.
The first part of our conversation will be hosted here, and those interested in catching the second half of the chat can do so at Erik’s excellent website.
I began the conversation simply, asking…
Brian Zitzelman : Do you still look forward to summer movie season?
Michael Ward : I do look forward to the summer movie season, but generally keep all the expectations and excitement at an arms length. Seeing as many movies as we do each year, it becomes very easy to pinpoint this actor, this director or this franchise as something "awesome" or "can't miss." For me, in trying to stay objective and open-minded on everything, I have to keep an even keel on these films and not lose my mind over a poster, casting choice, or trailer. Typically, the summer movie season offers some terrific fun at the multiplex, but also produces lots of little surprises underneath the gigantic waves caused by your comic book movies, sequel relaunches/reboots and big budget action films. Previous summers have given us Before Midnight, Short Term 12, Moonrise Kingdom and lots of tremendous documentary and foreign films for example. So I do look forward to it, just not in a very narrow way.
BZ : Erik, how about you? Is the summer movie season enjoyed or endured?
Erik Samdahl : Like Michael, I try not to get overly excited about specific movies that
are released over the summer. There are always at least a few highly anticipated films
that end up not being very good, and at the same time there are usually a few that you
aren't paying attention to that end up being a pleasant surprise. That being said, I usually
fail at "not getting overly excited." I am super excited for Godzilla, X-Men, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and to some degree Guardians of the Galaxy. If the first three especially are letdowns, I will be disappointed. Overall, though, I don't see a lot of big blockbusters this summer that really get me going - June is notably devoid of such releases, save for the obligatory Transformers sequel - so right now I'm shrugging at this summer's lineup. Brian Z., what about you?
BZ : I look forward to summer a lot, just not really the mainstream stuff I guess. That stuff is kind of the sugar on top. If we get something like, oh say The Heat, like we did last year, it's a pleasant surprise. I really enjoy all of the low-budget things that arrive, particularly that batch of Toronto/Cannes/Sundance films by newer directors trying to make their mark. Add to that the annual Woody Allen film, of which Emma Stone pops in for this time, and whatever counter would-be-Oscar programming arrives, and by the end of August I'm stuffed with quality. Summer has more quality than the January-April run of things tend to have, and tends to avoid getting bogged down by the barrage of Oscar talk that consumes everything from September forward. Sure, like I said, there are the annual handful of critical darlings that grow buzz out of the summer season, like 2013's Blue Jasmine and Before Midnight, but the conversation usually gets to Oscar chatter eventually, instead of beginning with it's place in the race. As such, a movie like Richard Linklater's Boyhood, just screams can't wait for me. What about you Brian, I know 2013's lot of big releases didn't do much for you. When that happens, do you spend much time taking in the critical darlings, or just wait for those end of the year screeners?
Brian Taibl : I always look toward the summer movie going season with optimism and excitement (although last year would make some question that approach). These big movies have relevance in people’s lives – they’re the movies they know about and they’re interested in their success or failure. I’ve found that most people see, maybe, 5-10 movies a year (if that) and they want to fill that time with something that’s going to transport them from their everyday lives. It’s my job, and pleasure, to find out right quick if they should spend that money on The Lone Ranger or World War Z (for instance). That being said, I’ve really been focusing on adding more seemingly accessible little gems to my list – not a ton, but the ones that I can (hopefully) lovingly get behind and sell to a mass audience.
There are only so many hours in a day so my goal is to focus on the big boys and the popular darlings. If every Friday of the year I can be relevant to the majority of my audience then my job is nearly done.
Last year, based on my interest and critical buzz, I checked out Before Midnight and The Way Way Back. Both were fantastic and both were movies I felt people would enjoy. Almost everything else gets relegated to screener viewing (assuming I even get a screener later in the year). There were about four movies I really likes last summer, but I’m still really looking forward to these in 2014: Chef (smaller film), Million Dollar Arm, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Maleficent, A Million Ways to Die in the West, Edge of Tomorrow, 22 Jump Street, How to Train Your Dragon 2, Snowpiercer (smaller film) and Dawn of the Planet of the Aples. …and with mind wide open, I still hope for greatness from Godzilla, Transformers: Age of Extinction, Guardians of the Galaxy, Jupiter Ascending and Hercules. Well, maybe not Hercules.
BZ : Brian, you mentioned keeping an open mind for a couple movies that seem like they could really be fun or total duds. Sara, are there any 2014 summer movies you're especially anxious about?
Sara Michelle Fetters : Summer at the movies is always a little bit hard. Some of my best memories growing up were seeing movies during the summertime with my family. Standing in line at 6am to go see The Empire Strikes Back. Heading to the drive-in every single weekend watching everything from a re-release of Disney's The Jungle Book to Chuck Norris' The Octagon to Smokey and the Bandit II. To my dad and I sneaking away to watch war/military-related films like Top Gun, Rambo: First Blood Part II and Full Metal Jacket. These were my summers and, by and large, were what helped shape and mold me into who I am now, so every time the calendar ticks closer and closer to May I almost can't help but get more than a little apprehensive and anxious.
Why? I think it's because I want to re-live those experiences. I want to have those highs once again. I want to pass on those memories to my nieces (as I attempted to do with my brother and sister taking them to see everything from Gremlins 2, to Arachnophobia, to The Lion King, to Jurassic Park). I want people to have the worlds expanded and their imaginations fertilized like I felt mine was, the summer season opening my mind to cultures and ideas I didn't potentially new existed beforehand. Would I have dug into 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Shining, or Paths of Glory had my dad and I not seen Full Metal Jacket in June of 1987? Would I have known Peter Weir or Phillip Noyce existed had George Miller not taken me on a trip with The Road Warrior in 1982? Heck, would I have become the Western aficionado I am today without The Legend of the Lone Ranger (a bad movie, I know, but one my adolescent self loved all the same when she experienced it back in May of 1981)?
All of which is a long-winded way of saying I'm especially anxious and yet also equally excited by a lot of this summer's fare. I can't wait to experience a great many of the offerings on the table (well, maybe not Blended, Adam Sandler and I don't exactly have the greatest of relationships) and am curious to see how many of them turn out. Do I still have superhero fatigue? Sure, to a certain extent, but the wonderful excellence of the new Captain America cured that for at least a moment so I'm more than willing to give Guardians of the Galaxy, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and especially X-Men: Days of Future Past the benefit of the doubt even though super powered heroics are admittedly getting a tiny bit stale. I will say the one movie of the summer I did not expect to be anticipating as much as I am is Godzilla. If ever a remake didn't need to happen, it's this one. At the same time, Gareth Evans' Monsters was a tiny surprise that showcased a real visual talent as far as directors go. The early looks at this new Godzilla lead me to believe those talents have been utilized to (hopefully) they're full extent. On top of that, he's cast character actors I'm excited to see inhabit the world he's envisioned for them, so if any film offers the opportunity for a depressive letdown sadly it looks like it might be this one. As long-winded answers go to a fairly straight-forward and simple questions go, how's that? More to the point, what do summertime memories at the movies mean to the rest of you? Do they influence your feelings and attitudes towards the cinematic season itself?
Part 2 will be found over at Erik's website imminently.